May 23, 2024

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Interview with Carlos Averhoff, Jr.: Music has not barriers, it is full of intellect, emotions, and tradition: Videos

Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist Carlos Averhoff, Jr. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Carlos Averhoff, Jr.: – I was born in Havana, Cuba and grew up in Luyano, a multicultural neighborhood where you can either listen to beautiful classical piano melody coming from a home, to a church chorus on Sundays, to Rumba music from a Yoruba religion part, to a popular band from the neighbor’s radio or a group of people having fun singing and playing percussion over an unimaginable item.

I got interested in music mainly from my father Carlos Averhoff, Sr’s influence. Since I was a little kid, I accompanied my father to the rehearsals with Chucho Valdes and the IRAKERE band. Moreover, at home there was music all day every day. I listened to my father practicing his saxophone for hours or teaching a private lessons and was always listening to different styles of music. All these factors got me to be interested in music when I was very young.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the saxophon? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the saxophon?

CAJ: – At the age of 9, I started to play the Saxophone (I remember the first day I tried the saxophone’s mouthpiece with the neck, not the whole saxophone yet). I wanted to be like my dad, which was my hero, that made me choose the saxophone. At the age of 10, I started taking lessons at the music conservatory Manuel Saumell in Vedado, Havana. My musical foundation was classical which is a very standard protocol in Cuban music schools. I started to play the Saxophone and the Piano was a secondary instrument. While at school, I started taking saxophone lessons with Juan Felipe Tartabull (now living in Colombia) which was a former student of my dad. I consider those years the most important in my life as a Saxophone student. Juan Felipe Tartabull – my first saxophone teacher at school – was very serious on private classes. His hard-core approach on each lesson twice a week for 10 semesters made me built a solid technique. I always gave him all the credits for my early classical foundation. A bit more than one year ago, talking with him, he told me laughing that was my dad who provide him 80% of the material I should be studying. Isn’t that funny? So, with all the respect to my other teachers, I should mention my father Carlos Averhoff Sr. and my first teacher at elementary to middle school, Juan Felipe Tartabull, as my main teachers who made me progress on my instrument.

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

CAJ: – After many years of listening to a variety of music styles, exploring and understanding different Jazz artists and their approach to the genre, I started to identify myself as an individual person and musician. The musical heritage, intuition, in combination with the learning process and personality, made me to evolve over the years and achieve the personal sound I have today. I think that music is as infinite as the universe. As composers and performing artists, we will be able to be develop our musical point of view and very important, to bring our personality to this process.

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

CAJ: – In order to maintain or improve my technique, I try to practice every day, either 1 hour, 4 hours or the whole day (which does not happen often when you are a father). I like to try a new idea often. It could be either focused on improvisation vocabulary or om developing my technique. Something particular I added to my routine is M.A.R.I, a Melodic And Rhythmic Independence technique that I created to use on my first project Iresi. With M.A.R.I, I challenge myself while practicing a technique pattern or scales. It consists on a percussion element that I play with my left foot while playing my horn. Thus, I am working on melody and phrasing while keeping the rhythm with my foot. It is challenging and stimulating to me.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?

CAJ: – I have no preference on specific harmony circle or specific patterns.  As for patterns, I do like to practice old ones in different time feel (I recommend this to every young music student, It helps your brain to think differently.), and as mentioned before, I like to tray a new pattern or melodic idea very often.  As for harmony circle, I like to work on different standards by different composers. At the present time, I came back to practicing and listening to John Coltrane, I will stay there for a while, then; I will figure out who will be my next composer.

JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album 2018: <Iqba: Jazz Meets Cuban Tima>, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

CAJ: – The idea of iQba came to my mind in 2012 when I first played as a bandleader at the Havana Jazz Festival. What I love the most about iQba is everything from the CD’s design to it’s music – to be honest. iQba is a dream come true. This album represents my first time recording in my home country, Cuba, as a band leader.  I had the privilege to reunite and record with friends and musicians currently living in Cuba and others, like me, living outside the island. These musicians performed on a very high level and created a very special musical interaction throughout the whole album. I smile with happiness every time I listen to the album. It makes me  remember the whole recording process. Furthermore, iQba was a challenging process to achieve from it’s beginning. I had to think on every small detail. For example, the musical theme I wanted to present on this project. The tunes – mostly American songs and Jazz Standards from different eras – I wanted to perform, the type of arrangements to bring a different color on each of the tune, the big musical picture of the album. Furthermore, compositionally I had to figure out how to present elements from Cuban Timba adapted to modern Jazz concepts and a classic Jazz quintet ensemble sound, where is not Congas or other percussion instrument interacting simultaneously with the drums. I decided to insert Timba music concepts in form of sketches. For example, in Bolivia the Timba influence can be heard right from the introduction; in Raquel the syncopated bass line is applied throughout the whole tune; on I fall In Love too Easily, you can hear a  Timba Piano Tumbao in 15/4 as an interlude previous to the trumpet solo.

At the present time, I’m focused on completing my next production. This album will be called “Together”. It is almost done and it is supposed to be a collaboration along with my father, but he was able to record in just one track before passing away. The album will showcase different artists who my father collaborated with. This will be a beautiful album.

JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

CAJ: – Music has not barriers, it is full of intellect, emotions, and tradition. Among all art representations, Jazz music is one where we can appreciate a balance between high intellect and soul.  For example, this balance can happen when the combination of intellectual ideas melts with a beautiful melodies representing a unique momentum, reality, and interaction between musicians inside a total understanding of a musical language.

JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

CAJ: – I have been fortunate to collaborate with several artist throughout my life. Few times I have been nervous.  Recently, I had the honor to play with Chucho Valdes and IRAKERE. I confess I felt a bit nervous and emotional – because my father was one of the founding members and played along with Chucho for 25 years. Furthermore, Chucho is the most important figure of the Afro-Cuban Jazz. But the one memory I will never forget is the gig I played tribute to John Coltrane’s performing ‘A Love Supreme’ album with Jazz luminary saxophonist Dave Liebman (this honorable invitation was made by his song in law Williams Rodriguez, a drummer in NY). I never met Dave before, just heard him in the albums. That day, he showed up 45 minutes early to the gig, we met and he just talked about the concert’s plan and went to his table, that is it! I could not talk or hang with my friends, I was so nervous! To conclude, we started the concert playing ‘A Love Supreme’ tune and he asked me to do the first solo that night. Can you imagine that?! You playing along Dave Liebman – who is one of the most well known Jazz saxophonist and educator today – two tenors in the front line, having the meeting experience process (with him) while playing the music of John Coltrane, one of Mr. Liebman’s idols … Luckily everything went very well but that was an intense process for me.

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

CAJ: – From an educational point of view – as educators, we have the mission to engage our students to learn a Jazz standard and there are  several ways to do this. For example, explaining to them different improvisation approaches to the tune, making them compose a new melody over that standard’s harmony, analyzing compositional tools on the melody and harmony.

In the social aspect, as a performer, we need  to spread the word to our society. People need to understand that this sophisticated melody or old Jazz standard represents the history of music and culture in this country. I think that the family, mostly the parents of these young people should be aware and understand what is Jazz and what it represents. Schools in all states of the US should have a music program. Socially, this is a difficult topic to address. But I’m positive that something can be made to rescue the musical tradition and history of this country. Every time I perform, I spread this word.

JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

CAJ: – John Coltrane did an important musical mission. His legacy will be remembered forever.

The meaning of life is what an individual person believes. We have different opinions on this topic. To my understanding, life is evolution, creation, social interaction, everything that exists around an individual person. Spiritual could be seen as an energy. That energy connected to our life, who you are as an individual,  your thoughts, beliefs, actions and decisions.

JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

CAJ: – I would implement a music appreciation class and a basic music theory course on all schools programs. This is just with the principal intention to educate the new generation to appreciate music as truly art and not an entertainment representation.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

CAJ: – I listen to a variety of music styles. Different genres within Jazz, Classical, Pop, and Cuban music. I enjoy that process. These days I returned to listening to John Coltrane. I had listened to his last album as well as specifics albums from different periods of his live.

JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

CAJ: – No doubt. It will be New Orleans.

JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself.

CAJ: – This is a question I ask myself very often. What will be happening with Jazz music 50 years from now?

JBN.S: – Thank you for answers. Jazz will life!!!

CAJ: – All my best, Carlos Averhoff, Jr.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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